(NEW YORK) – An $11.5 million gambling purse won by poker star Phil Ivey is being withheld by a London Casino as authorities try to determine if trickery or cheating played any role in the American’s winning streak at a game called Punto Banco.
A variant of baccarat, Punto Banco is described as a high-stakes game favored by high-rollers. Lance Bradley, editor in chief of poker magazine Bluff, calls Punto Banco a game in which skill plays no role whatsoever: winners win and losers lose, strictly by the luck of the draw.
In August, Ivey, 35, and a companion entered Crockfords in London’s Mayfair district, the city’s oldest gambling club and among its most prestigious.
Over the course of two days, the couple played for seven hours, first losing heavily, then winning back their losses plus many millions more. When Ivey finally left the table, Crockford’s management, according to the Las Vegas Review Journal, assured him that his $11.5 million winnings would be transferred to his bank account. But as of Monday, says the Journal, all that has been transferred is Ivey’s original $1.3 million stake.
Bradley says Ivey’s reputation is spotless.
“There’s nothing in his past that would hint at his being a cheater or unethical in any way,” says Bradley. “People say he’s arguably the best poker player in the world; but, really, there’s no argument: He’s #1. He’s known both for his skill and for his love of high-stakes games. He loves anything where there’s some sexiness at stake.”
According to the Daily Mail, suspicions of cheating first arose when it was discovered that Ivey’s female companion previously had had her membership at another Mayfair gambling house suspended.
Genting, the parent company of Crockfords, has had its investigators inspect every detail of Ivey’s play. According to the Daily Mail, the croupier was interviewed at length and all the cards inspected. Video recorded by 10 overhead cameras also was reviewed, but apparently failed to disclose any wrongdoing.
Representatives for Ivey and for Crockfords, asked for comment by ABC News, did not respond.
Ivey has won eight World Series of Poker bracelets.